Today was my first day of official ballet business. The morning started with heading to the Palucca Hochschule for the orientation meeting starting the school year. Throughout the minor 20 minute bus ride from our apartment to the school other students were getting on at nearly every stop. We followed them through the building because, let’s be real, we had no clue where the Green Room was. As soon as I heard the bustling of happy students seeing each other again rising up from downstairs I knew we were soon to be the new fish in the pond. We filed into the room with everyone else and sat down. Little did I realize we were about to get “a full crash course in German.” I was able to understand every other thought that the director spoke about. There was a slide show of students dancing in a field as part of a project, some new students being introduced, and an overview of the school year. I was briefed in English by the director after the meeting and was told my rehearsals would be starting today! He said we should take the class with the bachelor students (that began 30 minutes from then) and then head over to the Semperoper to start rehearsals for Swan Lake. No better way to start then at full speed!
At the Semperoper studios it was a whole different world. Within literally 30 seconds of wandering into the building looking lost we were offered help by no less than 6 dancers. Everyone was so friendly. The artistic director came up to introduce himself to us as soon as he saw us and gave us a short run down of how all the posters were laid out. Although everyone speaks English at the ballet (too many nationalities to keep it all straight) all of the schedules and cast list and such are printed in German. After staring at them all long enough and comparing back and forth I have it all basically figured out. I know where to go and at which time and for now that will do just fine.
Moving on to dinner… since I have arrived to Dresden all of my meals have been created from the small selection of foods at our local grocery store. There is a rather limited option, not only of recognizable foods, but just of food in general. My meals have consisted mostly of meusli, yogurt, trail mix, lettuce, cheese, nutella, milk, eggs, rice, carrots, eggplant, and soy sauce. (For a few nights I sauteed up some eggplant in a pan with garlic and onion and soy sauce if I felt like it and served it over rice or lettuce.) Even though I am trying to be as creative as possible I sure am missing the varied diet I was accustomed to back at home. Thankfully one of the apprentices I met at the ballet today informed me of another grocery store in close proximity to our apartment that is far superior to where we have been going. I believe I will be checking that out tomorrow. For dinner tonight though, I went out with Hannah and the other apprentices to an Italian restaurant in Neustadt on the north side of the Elbe River. I know, so German right. You’ll just have to forgive me, I needed some variety of any kind at this point. I ordered pizza with fresh tomatoes, parmesan, mushrooms, and arugula. The English translation on the menu translated arugula as “rocket.” Gotta love Europe! It was supremely delicious. The “rocket” was fresh and spicy and the crust was thin and crispy. Just the way I like it. Needless to say I ate it all. Save for one piece that I gave to Hannah.
Over all a day of success.
I have found from my previous experiences with foreign travel (well any travel really) the first few days are rather rough. You are in an unfamiliar place, not really knowing where anything is, where you are going, or how to get there. On top of that everything is in a different language. German, as a language, is so different than any other language I know. I have studied both French and Spanish in school and from those can figure out parts of Italian and other romance languages fairly easily. There are a lot of similarities. But in German, the words are just so random! There are a lot of consonants. I am starting to get a hang of the very simple words like please, thank you, numbers and a few transportation related words. Other than that it has been trial and error. I’m sure once my culture shock has faded away a bit I’ll get more comfortable speaking but for now I am just going to try to do as much as possible with as few words as possible.
The highlight of yesterday (which mostly consisted of wandering around town on foot and getting stuck in the rain and cold winds) was going to see Dresden Semperoper Ballet’s premiere of Jewels, a George Balanchine ballet. When Hannah and I finally found where the box office was tickets were nearly sold out. We lucked out though! We got two of the last tickets in the theatre for the student price of only 11 Euro, compared to the normal price of 39 Euro. Yay! We arrived at the theatre about 15 minutes early via tram from our apartment and wandered up to our seats in the 4th tier. The building is gorgeous!!!
Brief history lesson from the guidebook: The building burnt down entirely in 1871 just 30 years after it was opened. It was fully rebuilt and reopened by 1878 and housed the premieres of many famous German composers, Strauss, Weber, and Wagner to name a few. It was shut down temporarily during World War II but was back in full swing starting in 1985.
On the way upstairs we bought programs to read while we were waiting for the show to begin. Of course they were all in German (duh) save for one page in the back explaining why Balanchine created Jewels. He was inspired by the emeralds, rubies, and diamonds that he saw one day in a store front in New York City. Those three jewels then became the themes, and names, for the three corresponding sections of the ballet, each with different costumes and styles of choreography relating to the certain gem.
The performance was magnificent! The corps was fabulously together throughout the night and the principals and soloists danced beautifully. I had so many moments of awe I don’t think I can count them on my hands and feet combined. Comparing the casting with the list of company dancers I was pleasantly surprised to find that a few of the dancers who performed principal and soloist roles were in the corps! They seemed so comfortable and seasoned in lead roles. I hope to see more great things from them to come.
I can’t believe I am about to start dancing along such talented dancers! What an opportunity. What an experience. I can’t wait!
Well after 11 hours on airplanes and a mere 2 hours of sleep since 8 AM Thursday morning (in Pittsburgh) I have made it to Dresden! Before I lose myself with all the magnificence of European life I have to share the delicious day of dining that I provided for myself on my last day in America.
Breakfast was the usual coffee and cereal (multigrain cheerios from Trader Joe’s and homemade granola). The fun began at lunch time. I had ice cream for lunch. Yes, you heard me correctly. I did indeed just brag that I had ice cream for lunch. It was supplemented by a lovely summer fruit salad but that’s beside the point. My Mom and I made an excursion to Oh Yeah! Ice Cream on S Highland Ave. Now this is no ordinary pick a flavor, plop it on a cone and lick to your hearts content type of place. Not at all. Here at Oh Yeah! you enter the artfully cluttered shop and are immediately overwhelmed by a classroom sized chalkboard full of possibilities.
There are about 10 options for ice cream flavors (regular dairy or soy based) then four times that number worth of possible mix-ins. It must have taken me no less than 5 minutes to come up with my selection. I was just so tempted by the squirrel meat but they ran out so I had to go with my second choice.
I ultimately made up my mind and got a half scoop of sweet cream ice cream with oatmeal raisin cookies mixed in and another half scoop of butter almond ice cream with snickers mixed in. The dairy ice cream all comes from Dave and Andy’s Ice Cream, a local Pittsburgh business. The soy based flavors come from a Chicago company I believe. The process of mixing a feat in it’s own, there is no frozen slab or paddles used anywhere in the process. The ice cream is scooped into a cup and the appropriate amount of the selected mix-in is added. The cup is then emptied into a machine that works slightly similar to a milkshake maker in the sense that it thoroughly integrates the two ingredients so you can enjoy all flavors in each bite. This machine is funnel shaped though so after you dump the cup of separated ingredients into it the empty cup is then moved to underneath the funnel where the perfectly mixed creation is pumped out. It’s pure bliss let me tell you.
After every last morsel was consumed, we headed back home, fat and happy, to keep on packing. A few hours later it was time to eat again! My Mom, Dad, and I made the short drive from our home to Sharpsburgh for a lovely dinner at Bona Terra. The dinner was spectacular. The menu changes nightly depending on what ingredients the chef has that are in season and local. (The best way to do it if you ask me.) After we ordered (I decided to get 3 appetizers because the choices appealed to me the most in that category) we got a lovely amuse bouche of cucumber salad with sauteed strip steak all in a soy glaze. Yum! Next came the salad. Mixed greens topped with fresh chevre, golden rasberries, bing cherries and roasted pecans. Just before we finished our salad course we were brought brioche rolls fresh from the oven. Literally. They were too hot to touch at first. But once they cooled down just enough they were the most delectable fluffy buttery rolls in existence. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better out came the soup. Wild mushroom soup with white truffle oil and a few sauteed mushrooms floating in the middle. My mouth is watering just thinking about it again. I absolutely adore mushrooms. Finally, after a tiny helping of peach sorbet to cleanse our palates, I had home made gnocchi with angus beef bolognese. The sauce had so much flavor and the gnocchi were perfect. Even though it was an appetizer, the portion was just right for me. I finished off my meal with a collection of chocolate. A perfectly made from scratch brownie topped with Belgian chocolate ice cream with chocolate ganache and candied almonds. How can you go wrong?
Fat and happy once again, we headed home to pack, once again. That turned into one of the most stressful packing experiences of my life but at least I had a day filled with good food (mostly dessert!) to make up for it.
Welcome! This is my first experience blogging and it is going to be a complete experiment for me. I am moving to Dresden, Germany from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to follow my dream of becoming a ballerina. This blog will essentially just be a place to share anything and everything that I experience, with a slight focus on food (yum!), fashion, and ballet. Hope I keep you interested! Thanks for reading!